Australians are not invincible: Intikhab
McGrath year’s best Aussie
Bagan favourites vs ITI today
On-drive is one of the toughest shots
Double for state mini volley teams
Buchanan’s the best in business, says Geoff Marsh
Roy blames it on lack of technique
Kader profits from Alford mistake

 
 
AUSTRALIANS ARE NOT INVINCIBLE: INTIKHAB 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Melbourne, Jan. 31 
Despite losing to Australia thrice in succession in the lead-up to the Carlton and United Series finals, Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam insists the world champions are “beatable.”

Pakistan did, of course, stun Australia in the very opening game — at the Gabba, back on January 9.

“They aren’t invincible... That India pushed Australia so close yesterday, is a pointer to the chinks that exist,” Intikhab told The Telegraph this evening.

The first of three finals comes off at the MCG on Wednesday. Final No. 2 will be in Sydney, on Friday. Should it be necessary, the third final too will be at the SCG (Sunday).

While the Australians arrived this afternoon (from Perth), Pakistan have been here from Saturday itself. But it’s only today they had a close look at the MCG wicket, on conclusion of the Victoria versus Queensland Pura Milk Cup match.

“Looks good,” opined Intikhab, indicating there could be a repeat of the high-scoring last league game (at the MCG) between the two. But, yes, Intikhab isn’t looking at the same bottomline: Pakistan lost by 15 runs, after being comfortably placed more than once.

According to Intikhab, Saqlain Mushtaq and Abdul Razzaq, who didn’t play the last match (against India) will return for Wednesday’s game. Shoaib Malik and Waqar Younis are the ones who will have to make way.

Australia appear set to field Andrew Symonds, who wasn’t played yesterday. But who will sit out wasn’t clear till this evening.

Meanwhile, it is understood the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has extended Intikhab’s appointment till “at least” the trip to the West Indies. Officially, though, Intikhab hasn’t been informed.

Apparently, Brig. (Retd) Khwaja Mohammed Nasir, manager for this tournament, has also got an extension.

Pakistan’s first engagement, once this Series ends, will be hosting Sri Lanka.    


 
 
MCGRATH YEAR’S BEST AUSSIE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Melbourne, Jan.31 
Who, in the eyes of Sir Donald Bradman, qualifies to be Australia’s Best Young Cricketer of the Year? Well, somebody who has the following qualities:

Skill, a warm and engaging personality, not arrogant, dedication, known to uphold traditions and, one who will leave something behind for the next generation.

This was spelt out by Sir Don himself, in a letter to the Bradman Trust, which makes the annual presentation. The latest award went to the newest fast bowling sensation, Brett Lee.

The presentation was made at a star-spangled function this evening, to mark the awarding of the first Allan Border Medal to Australia’s Cricketer of the Year. It went to the consistently superb Glenn McGrath.

He aggregated 97 votes (mostly from fellow players, but also from umpires and select journalists), 10 more than captain Steve Waugh and 20 in front of the third-placed Ricky Ponting.

McGrath was also adjudged as Australia’s Test Cricketer of the Year. He polled 14 votes, with Steve and Ponting finishing on 12 each.

Shane Warne, on the other hand, pipped Mark Waugh by the proverbial whisker — one vote (25-24) — to emerge Australia’s One-Day Cricketer of the Year. Michael Bevan, on 19, came third.

The function, where Prime Minister John Howard was also present, saw one more presentation — Australia’s State Cricketer of the Year.

This was bagged by Darren Lehmann, currently out of favour with the national selectors.

The Allan Border Medal, a joint effort of the Australian Cricket Board and the Australian Cricketers’ Association, will be an annual feature.

Border didn’t make the first XI in Australia’s Team of the Century, but having a medal instituted in his name still is pretty much like the ultimate.    


 
 
BAGAN FAVOURITES VS ITI TODAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcuttta, Jan. 31 
The second leg of the National Football League begins tomorrow, with second placed Mohun Bagan taking on ITI of Bangalore at home, and State Bank of Travancore (SBT) playing Mahindra and Mahindra in Thiruvananthapuram.

Fresh from a 3-1 drubbing of Tollygunge Agragami at Rabindra Sarovar Saturday, Bagan are undoubtedly the favourites for tomorrow’s clash at the Salt Lake Stadium. They finished the first leg behind leaders Churchill with 22 points from 11 outings, while ITI are languishing at the 10th spot with 11 points from as many matches.

ITI will have their hands full tomorrow trying to contain the hosts’ star-studded forward line, featuring Igor Shkvirin of Uzbekistan and Stephen Abarowei of Nigeria. But, Bagan will miss the services of their new Brazilian recruit Jose Barreto Ramirez, who will have to sit out tomorrow’s match with two yellow cards. And considering the fact that he had assumed the playmakers’ role rather succesfully, it might prove costly.

Moreover, ITI’s performance at home has shown that they are no pushovers. They have snatched points from all the Calcutta teams, holding the glamour outfits to draws and defeating Tollygunge Agragami.

Mohun Bagan, thus, will naturally try to prove a point at home and make amends for those two lost points. Coach Subrata Bhattacharya today said they will play a positive game and try for three points. He, however, admitted that the absence of Ramirez will be felt.

ITI depend a lot on Nigerian George Ekeh, and the Mohun Bagan defence, which has proved to be porous under pressure even with a stalwart like Samuel Omollo present, will need to be more alert.

However, Dulal Biswas and James Singh, whose forays into the rival territory often unnerves the opponents, too can create trouble for ITI tomorrow.

And if ITI coach Nagendra uses the tall Nigerian Onyeka Ondego as the stopper and brings in Muralidharan as the sweeper, his team may be able to contain the Mohun Bagan forward line more effectively.    


 
 
ON-DRIVE IS ONE OF THE TOUGHEST SHOTS 
 
 
BY RAVI SHASTRI
 
 

I am a right-hander who enjoys playing the flick. However, I often end up playing the ball in the air. Is it because my back foot is not getting back and across?

(Vishal Kothari, 13, Howrah)

You are not getting sufficiently close to the pitch of the ball. Also, your head is obviously not on top of the ball.

I am a right-arm pace bowler but I cannot bowl the outswinger. Whenever I try, I end up overpitching. What should I do?

(Shyamal Sundar Banerjee, 10, Calcutta-31)

Watch the spot you are looking to pitch the ball like a hawk. Also, keep an eye on your grip and action at the time of delivery.

I am a right-hander and have difficulty in facing left-arm spinners. Please help.

(Ravish Bali, 18, Bhagalpur, Bihar)

Look to get your feet moving and try and play as much as possible in the direction of the turn if there is any.

I am a right-hander and very strong on the leg-side. But my off- side is very weak, especially the drives and the cuts. What should I do?

(Indraneel Das, 12, Barasat)

You have to make an adjustment with your grip.

I am a right-hander. Whenever I face an overpitched ball on the leg-side, I end up hitting my left foot with the bat. How should I tackle such balls?

(M.M. Rao, 29, Titagarh)

You are obviously fall-ing over and getting to far across with your left foot.

I am a medium pacer but can’t swing the ball. Please advise.

(Chandan Kumar Giri, 16, Balasore)

You are not getting side-on at the time of delivery. Also, you need to check your grip.

I am a right-hander who loves to play on the front foot. But I am just not comfortable playing in the mid-on region and often end up giving catches. Why does this happen?

(Rishi Rana, 12, Durgapur)

The on-drive is one of the toughest shots to play. So don’t worry. Try and ensure that you get close to the pitch of the ball with the bat making contact when the ball is under your eyes.

I am a leg-spinner and in trying to turn the ball a lot, I end up bowling short-pitched deliveries. What should I do?

(Pradeep Chowdhury, 16, Calcutta-96)

In trying to turn too much, you are obviously not getting the basics of the action right. Also, you are not concentrating enough on the spot where you want to land the ball.

I am a pace bowler and want to know the secrets of bowling a slower delivery.

(H.K. Baruah, 11, Assam)

You must learn to slide your fingers across the seam without making it obvious.

I am a right-hander. When I take a middle-stump guard, I usually get bowled or caught near the wicket. Why does this happen?

(Tushar Kanti Kar, 14, Jamshedpur)

You aren’t moving your feet enough.

I am a left-hander and find it very hard to glide through the slip cordon. What should I do?

(Rohit Maheswari, 10, Calcutta-17)

Make a trip to Australia and it will come naturally to you. Jokes apart, concentrate on playing straight for the moment and with a little bit of maturity, you will learn how to do it.

What is the ideal way of playing off-spin, leg-spin and the flipper?

(Reeshab Goenka, 10, Calcutta-25)

All spinners should be played the same way. That is, get your feet to move and watch the ball coming out of the bowlers’ hand.

What are the attributes that make a successful cricketer?

(Aftab Alam, 15, Calcutta-24; P. Sai Krishna, 8, Calcutta-14)

Discipline, hard-work, tremendous self-belief and commitment to the job at hand.    


 
 
DOUBLE FOR STATE MINI VOLLEY TEAMS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 31 
The state mini volleyball teams achieved a ‘double’, winning both crowns at the nationals that concluded yesterday in Abadi, Tamil Nadu, according to reports reachinghere.

The boys swamped Karnataka 3-0 in the final, while girls achieved a similar feat, trouncing the hosts 3-0 in the final.

The state boys and girls had also won the mini ‘double’ at the Barasat nationals in 1997.    


 
 
BUCHANAN’S THE BEST IN BUSINESS, SAYS GEOFF MARSH 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Melbourne, Jan. 31 
Geoff Marsh’s appointment as Australian coach, in April 1996, had come as a shock. But an ever bigger shock came last August, when Marsh announced he was quitting.

The Perth-based Marsh, though, has no regrets. He made that quite clear while speaking to The Telegraph, in Perth, last evening.

Presently a national selector, Marsh has worn all hats except that of the Australian captain’s. At his peak, it may be recalled, Marsh and David Boon formed one of the most outstanding opening pairs of all time.

Following are excerpts

On what prompted him to quit just a couple of months after Australia’s World Cup success

We had a break and that’s when I felt I ought to give it away, that I should spend more time at home... I also thought it probably was time for some fresh legs, in the thinktank... Of course, I do miss the blokes, all of whom are such fine cricketers, but I’m enjoying what I’m currently doing.

On reports he had actually signed a fresh (two-year) contract before choosing to quit

That’s incorrect. I was offered a new contract, but turned it down. It wasn’t an emotional or a spur-of-the-moment decision... I remember asking myself one question: With all the travelling, specially in the next season, would my heart be in the job? The answer was no.

Had I continued, I would have let myself down. More important, I would have let Australia down.

I couldn’t have lived with that.

On whether having already won cricket’s most coveted trophy also influenced his decision (to leave on an absolute high)

(Smiles) Yeah... That did come into the picture. For both coaches and players, the World Cup is the pinnacle and, standing on the Lord’s balcony that June afternoon, was more than special. For me, it was a double as I had been a member of the 1987 World Cup-winning team...

We had then been a young side and absolutely nobody gave us a chance. I still recall the tough training right through the tournament.

Simmo (Bob Simpson) made us work so hard, we would surely have left some of our skin behind at every venue!

On whether, at any time, he has regretted quitting

I’ve been comfortable with the decision... After all, I’d realised I ought to be somewhere else. Today, I’m the general manager in a financial planning set-up (The Getley Paulsen Group) and I’m quite happy. Besides, being a selector, ensures I stay in touch with a sport to which I gave the best years of my life.

On his first innings as national selector

Guess we’ve been lucky with our selection. All six (home) Tests won, the finals of the one-day series reached... We’re on the same wavelength as the captain, Steve Waugh, who wants a mix of focussed, talented players and those with attitude. The ones to wear the baggy green with pride written all over. If I may add, we are fortunate that our domestic cricket is so competitive.

On having had to live up to predecessor Simpson’s legacy

Indeed, when I took over (at the start of the 1996-97 season), a lot of people said it was the wrong time, that there wouldn’t be a challenge as the team was doing so well. But, there were three years to plan for the (1999) World Cup, our main target.

During my tenure, I also wanted Australia to win Test series overseas. And, while we did succeed in South Africa and Pakistan, we lost in India and Sri Lanka.

On whether losing in Sri Lanka (both the one-day tournament and Test series), in his ‘farewell’ assignment, hurt hard

But we did make the one-day series final and, had the weather not intervened, I’m confident we would have clawed back in the two Tests after the first. Today, however, I would rather look back on the many fine victories.

On the interaction between him and his successor, John Buchanan

I offered whatever support was needed in the changeover period but, you must appreciate, every coach has his own ideas... John was very successful at Queensland, and has begun on the perfect note. Bottomline, though, is that now the ship is his. Of course, because I’m a selector, we continue to interact.

On how he rates Buchanan

A coach’s principal job is to prepare players in the best manner and, I know, John leaves no stone unturned. It’s a very thorough tune-up. He’s probably the best in business and we have already seen the results.

On how he viewed his role as coach

As I’ve said, it was to prepare players in such a way they had the best chance of coming out tops in the middle. The preparation isn’t just physical, there’s that mental and psychological side as well. It’s important players be made to feel comfortable.

On what has given a coat of invincibility to this Australian team

(Smiles again) Passion, pride... The talent apart, obviously.

On Steve wanting to “assess” his future after the forthcoming tour of New Zealand

Whatever the decision, it will be his only... He’s played enough cricket and is a very smart guy. September onwards, Australia will be on the road for a long time and that’s why Steve probably intends sitting down with his family (after New Zealand) and deciding on the future. As it will be a purely personal decision, I certainly wouldn’t like to influence him in any way.

On whether he and his colleagues (chairman Trevor Hohns, Allan Border and Andrew Hilditch) picked Brett Lee for sheer pace only

The best thing about Brett is he bowls very straight and can swing the ball, too. His speed is more of an add-on. In any case, we chose him because of his excellent Pura Milk Cup (formerly Sheffield Shield) performances. We see him as a huge talent.

On Shane Warne’s future, with Stuart MacGill snapping at his heels

Shane probably has four-five years left. He’s 30, the age when spinners peak... We probably still haven’t seen the best of Shane.

Finally, on the Indians presenting such a sorry picture

Having played and beaten Pakistan at the start of our summer, we were better prepared. Then, we didn’t allow India any space to manoeuvre — that, indeed, was our gameplan. As also marking Sachin Tendulkar as the top ‘target’ and looking to get Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly cheaply, too... At this level, you’ve got to fix priorities and the pressure has to be relentless.

Perhaps, in the future, the Indians may have to come well ahead of a series to make themselves familiar with conditions. I’m sure even your players realise they were capable of a much better show. As they return home, they will share the general disappointment.    


 
 
ROY BLAMES IT ON LACK OF TECHNIQUE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 31 
Former Test opener Pankaj Roy feels “too much is made of bouncy tracks and rising deliveries” every time India lose a series abroad these days. “Those factors have always been there. We had to cope with the Wes Halls, Griffiths and Gilchrists at Sabina Park and other pacy pitches; Sunil Gavaskar had to stand up to bowlers like Marshall, Holding, Lillee and Thomson. The problem with the current lot lies elsewhere.

“It’s the lack of technique. You cannot survive and succeed against pace bowling without it.”

Roy was speaking after releasing Cricket Sekho, Cricket Khelo (Learn Cricket, Play Cricket), a coaching manual on the game written by former national selector Sambaran Banerjee.

Even as Roy stressed on technical nitty-gritties like the ‘side-on’ approach and good footwork, he made clear his aversion to the use of excessive protective gear.

“There were no restrictions on the bouncer then, and bowlers would even resort to the ‘beamer’ and yet we didn’t get hit as often as players these days. I think all that protective gear — you can have almost every part of the body thus covered — impedes movement and thus prevents the batsmen from tackling the pace bowlers properly.”

The book release function, attended among others by former football international P.K. Banerjee, cricketer Subroto Banerjee and actor Biplab Chatterjee, also saw a debate on ‘All this excessive hype and hoopla around cricket makes little sense’. The house rejected the motion.    


 
 
KADER PROFITS FROM ALFORD MISTAKE 
 
 
BY STAR RACER
 
 
The victory of Bountiful Treasure in the HSBC Cup on Saturday was simply charming. The Riyahi-Private Collection five-year-old gelding has displayed his class and has victories under his belt in Bangalore, Mumbai and Calcutta — a rare achievement.

Whatever the controversy about the erection of false rails which suited the Darius Byramji-trainee to the hilt, Aslam Kader could not be faulted. It was Cristopher Alford’s folly that sealed the fate of Joe The Pro. By allowing Kader a galloping passage along the rails, willingly or otherwise, Cristopher not only lost the race from a winning position but also lost many friends. The victory would have earned him kudos which Kader stole from under his nose.

However, Cristopher’s virtual start-to-finish efforts on Supreme Desire in the opener, the 2,400m Ocean Way Cup, and on Silver City in the following event, the A. B. Gujral Memorial Cup, were praiseworthy. The two winners are known to be difficult rides. What came as a surprise was their expanding odds, despite each being pitted against mediocre opposition.

Consolidate attracted good support, allowing the odds on Supreme Desire to drift to 6-4, while Silver City was quoted at 7-10 despite her daring performance in the elite company of Astrodance, Allosaki and Merano.

One, however, failed to understand how the Razeen-Silver Meteor filly was classified in the company of 22-50 rated horses while Merano started his local engagement in 44-72 category.

Merano, in fact, raised his rating when Kader piloted him to another convincing victory in the 1,200m Bahrain Trophy, meant for horses rated 66-94. The three horses are likely to strike again.

Aznavour regained his old sparkle in the 1,100m Red Bay Handicap. Carefully nursed down the handicap, the Stephens-trainee came with a storming run in the stretch to leave a heavily backed Double Crown standing. However, on the favourite, apprentice Islam could have done slightly better had he not needlessly checked the speedster mid way through the scurry.

A good jockey is known to make even an ordinary horse look a champion. The Mumbai champion jockey, C. Rajendra, partnering the two-time failure Sixteen Sixtyfour in the Picnic Handicap, had a virtual picnic when he guided the Vijay Singh-trainee to a fluent four-length-plus victory over Vested Interest. The second-placed horse had a definite handicap advantage but Manohar failed to inspire the Mujeeb-trainee to do anything worthwhile.

However, Rajendra was a mere passenger, though for no fault of his own, on Legal Fiction in the Tom Pip Handicap. Suspected to be unsound galloper, the Bharath Singh-trainee confirmed doubts when he returned with a painful shoulder. Mikado just about scraped home winner. The 1,200m sprint is hardly his trip but the false-rails turned saviour. As You Please placed a good second and could win soon. Silver Raising was leisurely third.    

 

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